Author's Note: Sorry I didn't post a chapter yesterday. I wish I had a good excuse but I don't. I honestly just forgot. There will be another chapter up right after this one.
Avatar: The Next Generation
Chapter 11: Not Yet Forgiven
The adults and children were relieved when they finally made it back into the Fire Nation Capital. They felt like they'd been gone forever. Had it really only been a couple of days?
They made their way to the palace, passing many Fire Nation citizens who gave them curious looks as they passed. That sure looked like their Fire Lord and the Avatar walking by, but they were in such filthy clothing! Why, it was as if they'd been wearing the same clothes for a couple of days and been rolling around in dirt!
Finally, the palace gate came into sight. The guard let them in immediately upon recognizing them. They were so glad that they could finally rest.
“Mommy! Daddy! Kazuna!” It was Saki who yelled. She'd been playing with all of the other young kids in front of the palace. They'd spent as much time as possible there, so they'd know immediately when their parents and siblings got home.
The next thing they knew, they were being attacked by children. Only Akatsuki, Hamako, and Kuuya approached them more calmly. They tried hard to look as if they hadn't been as worried as their younger siblings had been, but it didn't work very well.
There were many hugs. The parents questioned their children to make sure everything had been fine while they were gone, and the children asked to hear about everything that had happened.
“You actually saw Azula then?” Nori asked, “You fought her?”
“Yep,” Ichiko told her cousin, “And I wouldn't recommend that you ever try it.”
“Why not?” Misoka asked indignantly with her arms crossed, “Nori and I are just as good at fighting as you are, or at least we will be when we're you're age.”
“That's not what I meant,” Ichiko said, “I meant no one should fight her.”
The adults could quickly sense a fight coming on. Misoka and Nori had been arguing with Ichiko since they were old enough to talk.
“Let's go inside,” Aang said trying to divert the fight, “I think we should let everyone else know we're back.”
“I've already informed them,” a palace guard spoke up from a few feet away. The adults had been so happy to see their children that they'd forgotten all about the guard that had let them into the palace grounds.
“Right,” Aang said, “Well, we should be going inside anyway. Zuko and I need to see that Earth Kingdom representative. Do you know where he is?” Aang asked the guard.
“Waiting inside for you both. He heard me inform the palace staff of your arrival. He doesn't look to pleased that you've left him waiting this long.”
“Just as I thought,” Zuko muttered to himself. He then continued louder, “Thank you. Come on Aang. I want to get this over with as fast as possible.”
“Me too,” Aang sighed as he followed Zuko into the palace.
The other adults followed, deciding to go have some tea and rest after the exhausting trip while all of the children headed over to lounge in the shade of some trees. They had a lot to discuss.
“You're right,”Akatsuki shivered, “Azula does sound creepy.”
“I don't think creepy is the right word,” Ayame shook her head, “Downright terrifying is how I'd describe her.”
Sugi was hiding her face behind her sister Kazuna. “Sugi,” Kazuna comforted her sister, “It's all right. Azula can't hurt you here.”
“If she's as bad as you say she is,” Sugi mumbled fearfully, “Than I bet she could.”
“Relax, Sugi,” said Ichiko, “There are tons of guards who all know what Azula looks like standing around this place. There's no way she could get in.”
“You really think so?” Sugi looked at her cousin hopefully.
“Of course I do,” Ichiko proclaimed confidently.
“But I think she'll try to,” Ai said quietly while looking away from the group, “She'll want to get revenge on our parents and maybe even us now.”
They all looked at her silently for a minute until Ichiko spoke up. “She may try, but that doesn't mean she'll be able to. Like I said, guards everywhere.”
“What about when we go back home?” Ikuo asked his sister.
Ichiko froze. She obviously didn't have anything to say to that.
“Do you really think she'd follow us home?” Hajime said, “I think she'd rather stay in the Fire Nation. I don't think we'll have anything to worry about at home, and you guys,” he looked at Ai, Akatsuki, and Akiyoshi, “Will have nothing to worry about in the palace.”
“See,” Ichiko said, her confidence returning, “Nothing to worry about. We'll be fine.”
“I wish I knew what was going on in that meeting,” Katara muttered as she paced in front of the fireplace. Aang and Zuko had been speaking to the Earth Kingdom representative for a few hours now. Katara and the others were anxious to hear about what was happening. At least, Katara was anxious. The others didn't seem to care quite as much. Toph had even dozed off. She'd never cared for politics.
“Calm down, Katara,” Sokka sounded a little annoyed with his sisters antics, “You'll find out. Just be patient.” Sokka looked just about as bored as Toph. He really wanted to go do something interesting, but he had a feeling Katara wouldn't let him leave the room. She wasn't too thrilled when Suki and Kaimu had left, claiming they were going to go train with Hajime and Hamako. In fact, Katara had gotten quite offended and said something about how horrible it was that they weren't more concerned in Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom relations.
Haru had been a little smarter about escaping Katara. He'd claimed he needed to use the restroom half an hour ago and had yet to return. Sokka had considered following his lead about fifteen minutes later, but thought better of it because he was quite sure that Katara had caught on. She could be quite stubborn sometimes.
“Man, Katara,” Sokka was a little surprised to hear Toph's voice beside him, he hadn't realized that she was awake, “What's the big deal? I don't get what you're so uptight about.”
“Do you have any idea how fragile the Fire Nation's relationship with the other nations is right now?” Katara asked her sister-in-law, “If something happens to screw that up, we'll be right back were we started at the end of the war. You do remember what happened right after the war, Toph? It's still a delicate situation, probably will be years from now.”
“Katara's right,” said Mai, “The Fire Nation's pretty much walking on eggshells right now. Even inside the Fire Nation, there are many citizens who preferred the times when Ozai ruled. It's not an easy situation. If there's a disagreement between the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom, there will be many people from the Earth Kingdom who want the Fire Nation punished, and many people from the Fire Nation who will want to start another war with the Earth Kingdom.”
Sokka had to admit that he hadn't thought of that. He didn't think Toph had either. Sokka had forgiven the Fire Nation a long time ago. He hadn't thought that there might be other people who hadn't.
“Ty Lee, are you alright?” Katara asked suddenly. Sokka looked over at the corner where Ty Lee was sitting. Now that he thought about it, Ty Lee hadn't said anything since they had gotten to the palace. She was sitting quietly in the corner, staring at the ground with a frown on her face. She didn't answer for a moment, as if she was considering her answer. Then, she slowly looked up at them.
“I haven't seen Azula since she had us arrested at the Boiling Rock. I usually try not to think about it, but Ayame kept saying how scary she was, and how crazy Azula was. I just-I don't think you could say Azula and I were best friends. Azula didn't have true friends, but still... I don't know...” Ty Lee trailed off, unable to explain to the others. Mai seemed to understand exactly what she meant though. She walked over to her best friend and wrapped her arms around her in a hug.
“What do you think will happen to her?” Ty Lee asked Mai in a small voice.
“I don't know, Ty Lee,” Mai whispered, “I don't know.”
Azula hadn't thought she'd ever need to know how to survive in the wild. Why did the princess of the Fire Nation need to know which plants were edible and which were deadly? (For the record, apparently some types of mushrooms are poisonous. She'd found that out the hard way. She was quite certain that she'd never look at a mushroom again which was a shame considering how much she'd loved them before.)
Azula couldn't even remember the last bath she'd had. Had she really only been out here a little over a week? She had to have lost count of the days. She smelt as if she'd never had a bath in her life.
Azula was currently eating some berries. That was all she'd been eating lately, as she'd discovered these berries to be safe. She longed for some meat, any kind would do, but those damn animals were hard to catch. Not to mention, she didn't actually know how she would kill one. She didn't have any weapons, and firebending wasn't the most effective way since she really didn't want her meat burnt to a crisp.
However, Azula's lack of a proper diet or hygiene wasn't the most pressing issue at the moment. She'd been planning non-stop the past few hours as she sat in her nice, new hiding place. She had to get back into the Fire Nation capital without being caught. That was the only way she could execute her plan. Believe it or not, it wasn't her idiot brother and his family that she needed to see, at least not yet. That came later. No, she needed to see some one who she thought could be very helpful to her. They might be a little shocked to see her, it had been almost two decades since they'd last seen each other, but Azula thought they'd welcome the visit. They'd have some catching up to do, and Azula thought they would be quite happy to hear what she had planned.
It was early the next morning when Kazuna set out towards the barn that was reserved for Appa whenever they visited. It was Kazuna's turn to feed Appa that morning, not that she minded. She loved spending time with Appa.
Her father had gotten Appa when he was very young, and it amazed Kazuna that Appa was still alive, let alone able to fly them around the world.
As soon as Appa saw Kazuna enter the barn, he roared in greeting. Kazuna smiled at him as she brought him some hay.
“It's nice to see you Appa,” Kazuna told the bison as she sat by his side and stroked his fur. She always spent time with him every day unless he was traveling with her father. Appa was one of her closest friends, even if he wasn't human. She enjoyed the fact that she could tell him absolutely anything without a fear of him blabbing it to someone.
Kazuna sat at Appa's side for over an hour. She told him all about going after Ichiko and being captured by Azula. She described the complete and utter fear she felt in Azula's presence. She told him how she felt like a coward compared to everyone else. She knew that they were scared of Azula too, but they were still braver than her. She would always be the coward. She tried to hide her fear but it was still always there. She felt ashamed that she couldn't be braver. She felt like a disgrace to her family. Appa just sat and listened. That was the great thing about Appa, he couldn't judge her based on the secrets she told him.
“Thanks for listening, Appa,” she told him as she stood to leave the barn, “It's nice knowing that there's always someone that will listen.” She patted the flying bison once more before going back to the palace once more where she would try her hardest to hide her fear once more.